Let’s implant microchips in our kids!

Microchip ImplantJust kidding, but I got your attention. Also, full disclosure, I’m from Texas.

You may have seen the recent news story on the use of RFID student badges (not implanted microchips) in a school district in San Antonio, Texas. You can read a summary here.

Enter Financial Pressures

The main driver behind the school district using this technology is funding and extreme budgetary constraints. In Texas, the school districts are funded based on attendance. Attendance is primarily tracked by the traditional role call. If the student is noted as present, they are counted, if they are not, the student is not counted. You can see the issue with that, already.

Students might be late, out for just one day, etc., and with the pressure being put on the school districts’ budgets by lower taxes and increasing student populations, the districts are looking to receive appropriate funding. Not to mention examining any areas they can reduce costs without having to reduce the number of teachers, which increases the students-to-teacher ratio in the classroom. That is the landscape in education funding in Texas, right now.

Enter Innovation

In this instance, innovation takes the form of RFID student badges. Strictly from a funding perspective, the district is now able to set geographic boundaries to their campus and calculate their attendance throughout the day based on the physical location of the student on their grounds. This results in a much more accurate and realistic measure of the student population a district must support. That’s the point by the way; ensuring the district has enough resource to produce well-educated, ready-for-the-workforce students.

The district is also starting to use the RFID system for ways to reduce costs, such as knowing which students are selecting which meals at lunch and automatically charging their accounts, handling inventory of food and supplies based on what the students are consuming, etc. These are all efforts to focus precious expenditures on the services that directly impact teaching students.

A cursory look into our research for the ways other industries use RFID yields much more opportunity for districts to streamline processes and maximize the use of their physical and human resources for the students. Other industries are using RFID as commonplace to manage supplies throughout their supply chain, reduced order processing time, warehousing, inventory management, etc. You can draw corollaries for these processes within school districts pretty easily.

Plus, almost every organization using RFID is using it to manage loss prevention. No small need for a school district. The impact on student safety when a student can’t be found or a campus has to be “locked down” in an emergency is immeasurable. In my view, with the revenue-strapped, high-liability environment of today’s school districts, the benefits from the use of these tools far outweigh any potential negatives.

Enter Resistance

In this instance in the form of politics and bat $hit crazy.

If you read the story, you can see there is some minor resistance. There are a few cases of parents not supporting the use of RFID badges for their kids. Resistance is normal. There has always been resistance to any conformity measures taking within the US society. Requirements around hair length, skirt length, and required uniforms or dress code requirements were all met with resistance around invasion of privacy (on publicly-funded property) and for religious reasons.

Resistance is one thing, but labeling the RFID badge as “the mark of the beast” is a bit over the top. Any issue that aligns the ACLU and religious fundamentalists should be examined for merit. Two fine groups of people, no doubt, but they are on opposite sides of most major issues.

We were all teenagers and we know how resourceful teenagers are with any system. These are badges that can be removed. They will be lost, forgotten, left in lockers, etc. Teenagers won’t be tracked if they don’t want to be tracked. Let’s just take a deep breath.

Enter Some Perspective

The thing that struck me the most about this story was the nuance of the “tracking” everyone seems to be rejecting. It was perfectly OK to track a kid through roll call, but it isn’t acceptable to do it using technology. The same level information about a student is currently captured visually and in systems by teachers, administrators, and security guards.

A similar issue arose in Texas around tracking travel times on our roads. The State Government used a system that would randomly scan the license plate of a vehicle entering a roadway at a certain point, then look for that plate at various exit points. They would calculate the time between those two points and use it to report travel time and average roadway speed on their website. They found a cheaper way to do this using the unique ID put out by cell phones. For some reason, using license plates to track this was OK, but using the ID from a cell phone caused an outcry. In actuality, the new system using cell phone ID was made it more difficult to identify the owner versus the license plate system. But, it met with public outcries around invasion of privacy (on a public roadway).

Enter Your Insight

What is it about the use of technology that causes this visceral reaction to tracking?

Why would you not expect to be tracked when you are using publicly-funded resources?

I’d really love your input on this one.

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Categories: Continuous Improvement, Disruption, Information Technology, Process Management

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3 Comments on “Let’s implant microchips in our kids!”

  1. December 13, 2012 at 8:29 pm #

    My dog had a microchip. I think she forgot all about having it installed, she never once complained about it. It did not seem to have any adverse effects on her well being.

    I think about all the times I have to provide ID, so I would be in favor of an implanted chip.

    No need to force this on people. If this gets off the ground, with a chip you go straight through checkpoints, otherwise you line up for a few hours to go through the single checkpoint.

  2. December 14, 2012 at 6:28 am #

    kwkeirstead,

    I don’t think we’ll get to the point of putting microchips in our kids. That was a bit tongue in cheek.

    This problem will be solve (and actually almost already is) in a more elegant way. Most parents use their child’s mobile device (cell phone) and have set business rules and processes around that device, such as 1.) always have it with you, 2.) always answer when I call, 3.) don’t give it to anyone else, etc.

    These rules coupled with the consequences for not following them will go a long way toward keeping kids safe and parents at ease. After all, who knows of a kid that is EVER separated from their cell phone, iPod, iPad, or other mobile device once they get one.

    The use of technology to monitor students while on campus will continue to expand. There is too much liability for the schools while the students are on campus, and if funding continues to be based on attendance, districts will look to be more precise in their measurement of attendance.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. When is electronic tracking OK? | Successful Workplace - January 16, 2013

    […] clear to me when I started a discussion on LinkedIn around one of my recent blog post about using RFID badges to track students. I started the discussion in a LinkedIn group focused on process improvement within healthcare. […]

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